Western New York Healthy Options Restaurant Week Returns

The Independent Health Foundation is hosting Healthy Options Restaurant Week, which runs March 4 – 10. 

Restaurants across Western New York are taking part in this week’s event.

Select menu items at participating restaurants have been analyzed by a registered dietitian from the Independent Health Foundation to meet Healthy Options standards for calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium.

“For two decades, the Healthy Options Buffalo program has helped the community make informed choices about healthy eating and we’re excited to once again highlight that work through Healthy Options Restaurant Week,” said Carrie Meyer, executive director of the Independent Health Foundation. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for families to try a healthy spin on their favorite foods – like grilled cheese, burgers, and pizza. We hope it will show people there’s no need to sacrifice flavor and fun when dining out.”

Participating restaurants include Avenue 29 Foods, Bratts Hill, Buffalo Plant Veggie Burgers, Carine’s Caribbean Cuisine, CEOKitchen, The Cheesy Chick, Fresh Catch Poke, Giacobbi’s Cucina Citta, Green Eats Kitchen and Juice Bar, Mario’s Bistro and Brews, Mister Pizza Elmwood, New Jewel of India, Sto Lat Bar, Sunshine Vegan Eats, and Undergrounds Coffee House & Roastery.

“As research continues to show evidence of the impact of food and diet on health outcomes, we are proud to work with community-based partners, like the Independent Health Foundation, to create educational resources about, and access to, nutritious meal options,” said Beth Machnica, director of Health & Well-Being for the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. “We hope Healthy Options Restaurant Week serves as a catalyst for Western New Yorkers to learn that it is possible to nourish yourself with tasty, healthy food and enjoy local restaurants.”

For more details, visit healthyoptionsbuffalo.com/restaurantweek.

Healthy Options Restaurant Week

Monday, March 4 – Sunday, March 10.

Calling all restaurants! Share your healthy food with our community!

The Independent Health Foundation, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Appetit, and the Buffalo Urban League are excited to bring Healthy Options Restaurant Week to Buffalo! This spring, we

are encouraging our community to visit new restaurants and taste all the healthy food that Western New York has to offer.

Each vendor will be asked to serve one “Healthy Option” menu item, including an appetizer,

entree, and an optional dessert. If you don’t currently offer a healthy option, we will work with you to find an option that fits your menu! The Healthy Options Restaurant Week runs from Monday, March 4 to Sunday, March 10.

More information can be found here, and at the Healthy Options Website here. You can also email info@healthyoptionsbuffalo.com.

BNMC Impact Report

Today the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC) shared its final report to the US Department of Agriculture on a multi-year Farm to Hospital project. Nine years ago, BNMC brought partners Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and Kaleida Health together with a shared vision for what a culture of fresh, healthy, local foods in healthcare systems could look like. To advance this vision, BNMC applied for and received three rounds of grant funding from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Together the partners worked to:

  • update institutional procurement and vending contracts,
  • implement a Harvest of the Month campaign,
  • host three Food as Medicine Symposia,
  • develop the WNY Food as Medicine Coalition,
  • install five new Farmhouse Fridges across campus.

As a direct result of their efforts, local procurement at Campus hospitals has increased by 333%. This matters, because for every dollar spent on local procurement (small to midsize farms, aggregators & distributors operated by our neighbors), 75-85 cents stays in the local economy when compared to conventionally sourced produce (largescale corporate food chain) where the revenue share to local farmers hovers around 14.9 cents. More data highlights are included on page 14 of the report.

The increase in local procurement meant that 42 local farmer entrepreneurs directly benefitted from the effort and grew their businesses. A further 10 local producers were able to expand their ability to sell into healthcare food systems by becoming USDA-certified in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). Several other local businesses in processing and procurement also benefitted greatly from this work.

While the impact on local entrepreneurs in our healthcare food system is significant, campus hospitals have been able to greatly improve the quality of their procurement practices for the benefit of patient and visitor health. With new policies and operations templates in place, these practices will continue to grow well into the future.

You can read a full copy of the report here. Meet the partners, growers, and distributors in a short video here.

 About Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus  

For more than twenty years, The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus organization (BNMC) has been a driving force in Buffalo’s economic renaissance. Throughout its management of the growth of Buffalo’s premier innovation district, the BNMC has foregrounded smart economic, social, and environmental development, prioritizing health & well-being and sustainability. Today, the BNMC is focused on the next phase of Buffalo’s ongoing resurgence, cultivating inclusive innovation in partnership with our community, and launching the IC Success (Innovation Community Success) program to support aspiring entrepreneurs from all backgrounds to help them start or grow a business. Program graduates will form the heart of Buffalo’s growing Innovation Community comprised of businesses large and small in an array of disciplines leading the region’s next wave of economic development and growth.   www.bnmc.org

BNMC’s Third Annual Food As Medicine Symposium “Transformative Practices for Health” Will Take Place on September 27th and 28th at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB

Buffalo, NY – BNMC is pleased to announce the upcoming Food as Medicine Symposium, “Transformative Practices for Health.” The symposium will take place on September 27th and 28th, 2023 at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo. The school is located at 955 Main Street.

This two-day event aims to bring together national and local speakers to facilitate discussions and workshops centered around value-based practices. This year’s symposium will focus on the food industry, food equity, and lifestyle medicine. Additionally, the event will highlight partners’ food and nutrition practices rooted in integrity, accountability, and transparency, which are contributing to meaningful and sustainable change in clinical and population health outcomes.

The agenda for the 2023 symposium includes a range of activities designed both for community members and healthcare professionals.

On Day 1, participants will have the option to choose between two workshops. The first workshop, led by Registered Dietitian Rachel Laster and Rhonda Wilson of Buffalo Black Nurses, will offer a cooking demonstration for the general public, showcasing how to incorporate food as medicine in daily life. The second workshop, facilitated by Dr. Ted Barnett of the Rochester Lifestyle Medicine Institute, is tailored for clinicians and members of the healthcare team, focusing on integrating food as medicine, and whole-food plant-based nutrition, into their practice.

Day 2 of the symposium will feature a morning keynote address on food equity by Dr. Angela Odoms Young from Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology. This will be followed by a panel discussion on food equity, exploring how stakeholders outside the food system can advance health and food equity through food as medicine programs. The afternoon keynote by Chef Dr. Robert Graham of Fresh Medicine NYC will delve into the field of lifestyle medicine, followed by a panel discussion highlighting best practice models for lifestyle medicine and culinary medicine programs.

The symposium will conclude with a panel discussion featuring representatives from the private food sector, examining their contributions to health outcomes, sustainability, and profit within the complex landscape of nutrition and health.

Accreditation for continuing medical education (CME) will be provided by the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.

To learn more and register, visit: https://bnmc.org/health-and-wellbeing/.

BNMC is happy to offer discounted tickets for non-profits with this code FAMNP2023 and FREE tickets for students with this code FAMSTU2023.

This year’s symposium is generously sponsored by the Jacobs School and the School of Public Health and Public Health Professions at UB.

About Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus  

For more than twenty years, The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus organization (BNMC) has been a driving force in Buffalo’s economic renaissance. Throughout its management of the growth of Buffalo’s premier innovation district, the BNMC has foregrounded smart economic, social, and environmental development, prioritizing health & well-being and sustainability. Today, the BNMC is focused on the next phase of Buffalo’s ongoing resurgence, cultivating inclusive innovation in partnership with our community. BNMC launched its flagship program, IC Success in 2021 to provide support to aspiring entrepreneurs from all backgrounds to help them start or grow a business. Program graduates form the heart of Buffalo’s growing Innovation Community comprised of businesses large and small in an array of disciplines and leading the region’s next wave of economic development and growth. BNMC  www.bnmc.org. 


Adriana Viverette

Digital Communications Manager

Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus

(716) 348-4126 aviverette@bnmc.org

Presenting the 2nd Annual Food as Medicine Symposium, “A Bridge to Health.”

BUFFALO NY– On October 13, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus’ Health & Well-Being division presented its second annual Food as Medicine Symposium, bringing together a range of national and local pioneers in the field to discuss research and policy in the Food as Medicine space. The Keynote address “Food as Medicine: Dietary Priorities and Policy Actions After the White House Conference,” was presented by Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, Dean of Policy at Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. The symposium was held at the UB Center for Bioinformatics and Life Sciences at 701 Ellicott Street in Buffalo. More information about the event can be found here.

BNMC and its partner institutions have been a driving force in a campus-wide effort to improve access to healthy food in hospitals and the surrounding community, collaborating with Kaleida Health, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, and other medical facilities on the Campus. Together, they have implemented the Farm to Hospital program which has connected local farmers and growers to food procurement systems at area hospitals. This program has allowed BNMC partners to serve healthy, locally sourced food to the tens of thousands of patients and visitors that rely on campus resources each year while also benefitting local farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs.

More recently, the BNMC has spearheaded the formation of the Western New York Food as Medicine Coalition, a group that brings more than 40 partners together to share best practices and expand and accelerate the impact of Food as Medicine programs on advancing health in our region.

Elizabeth (Beth) Machnica, Director of Community Well-Being at BNMC said, “Food is undoubtedly a major factor in the determination of medical outcomes, decades of research have shown us this. What we are missing is a broader awareness of the concept and the movement. Our symposium is open to all that would like to learn more and join us in discovering the latest developments and innovations to engage and empower our communities to evaluate the relationships between diet, medical outcomes, and overall health and well-being.”

Conference organizer and BNMC Associate Director of Health and Well-Being Marla Guarino added “The food as medicine discipline is growing and gaining momentum in the United States, at the BNMC we want to ensure our campus and community are at the forefront of innovation and leadership in the field. This is important for our city which has been, and still is, home to food inequities in our communities. Our symposium will spotlight that and point us toward how we can make meaningful change.”

About Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus  

For more than twenty years, The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus organization (BNMC) has been a driving force in Buffalo’s economic renaissance. Throughout its management of the growth of Buffalo’s premier innovation district, the BNMC has foregrounded smart economic, social, and environmental development, prioritizing health & well-being, and sustainability. Today, the BNMC is focused on the next phase of Buffalo’s ongoing resurgence, cultivating inclusive innovation in partnership with our community. In 2021 BNMC spearheaded the initiative to bring the national programs EforAll and Eforever to Buffalo. These proven programs support aspiring entrepreneurs from all backgrounds to help them start or grow a business. Program graduates will form the heart of Buffalo’s growing Innovation Community comprised of businesses large and small in an array of disciplines and leading the region’s next wave of economic development and growth. BNMC  www.bnmc.org

A Summer of Fun for 2021 on the BNMC

Welcome to summer 2021! After everything we have been through this past year, we are delighted to invite you to join our BNMC Summer of Wellness, our healthy, fun program of events and hwp-contentenings that will help all of us reinvigorate and recharge. We have an array of events that will allow us to safely gather together to bike, walk, or practice restorative yoga. Join us for one, for some, or for all. These programs are open FREE  to all who live and work in our community and on our campus. They will be safely socially distant, and facemasks are recommended. You can register for everything here.  Here’s what’s on the schedule this year:


Open Streets – May 21!

Join the Fun on May 21!

Being able to enjoy the outdoors – walking, exercising, getting fresh air – is an important part of living a healthy, hwp-contenty life.  With limited park space in our area, and the need to still stay safely socially distant from one another, we’re rethinking how we use our streets.   For our first-ever Open Streets event, we will be closing Washington Street between Carlton and High Streets to traffic and we’ll use the space for healthy activities, starting off with a Bike to Work Day breakfast for anyone who rides their bike to the event. Breakfast for the first 50 riders will be FREE.

There will be many healthy fun activities until 2 pm. You can register for them here.

We’ll have food trucks, D.J.s, and giveaways too!

Masks and social distancing will be required to ensure a healthy and safe event for everyone!

Our event partners:


Join Us for Meditation Mondays in November!

Free, Virtual Meditation Sessions

Every Monday in November Beginning Nov. 2nd from 8:30 – 9:00 a.m. 

The BNMC Healthy Communities team presents Meditation Mondays, a 30-minute live guided meditation each Monday morning from 8:30 – 9:00 am in November. Each week has its own theme to provide focus, purpose, and intention. All participants will receive recordings of each session and an e-book to guide their own meditation practice once the series has concluded. Meditations are being guided by Amiyah King and Jasir Ali, full bios in our Facebook Events page. Register on our Medical Campus Wellness Events Public Facebook Group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/2243130692613771

Download our Meditation Mondays Flyer!

BNMC Shifts Existing Grant Funding to Increase Capacity of Local Food Supply Chain During Pandemic

BNMC Shifts Existing Grant Funding to Support Efforts of Farmers, Not-for-Profit Organizations, and Small Distributors to Increase Capacity of Local Food Supply Chain During Pandemic

Projects Support the Longer-Term Goal of Improving Access to Institutional Procurement


BUFFALO, NY—The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Inc. (BNMC) has partnered with four local organizations to support projects that will increase the food system resiliency in our community. A total of $20,000 has been distributed to local partners to support the production and distribution of local foods, as well as the sustainability and growth of small farms and distribution businesses that may be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding has been made available through “BNMC Fresh: Farm to Hospital Implementation,” an existing three-year grant that the BNMC received in 2018 through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Local Food Promotion Program.

This collaborative initiative is designed to create a model that prioritizes local agriculture from New York State, enabling farms to access new markets (hospitals), and can be replicated across the state. The initiative is expected to create a culture that embraces local farms through prioritizing local procurement; establishes and expands community supported agriculture (CSA) and farmers’ market programs; establishes food chain transparency; increases awareness and knowledge among consumers of local food procurement efforts; and provides knowledge and skill-building opportunities to agribusiness stakeholders (farmers, distributor, food service teams). This project ultimately aims to make local procurement a regular practice and culture among health care institutions.

“Our grant manager at USDA was very understanding about our efforts to increase healthy local foods in hospitals slowing as our health care partners shift their full attention to caring for our community during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marla Guarino, BNMC’s Farm to Institution Program Coordinator “We were able to redistribute the funds originally earmarked for conferences, travel, and longer-term strategies that are currently on hold, and expand the scope of the initiative to have a more immediate impact on making our local food system more resilient.”

Guarino added, “Implementing these short-term wins more quickly supports the overall goal of the grant – increasing the ability of small farmers and organizations to play a role in institutional procurement, such as hospitals, colleges and universities, prisons, and school districts.”

In order to support the local food chain supply quickly during the pandemic, the BNMC team looked to extend projects with existing partner organizations, primarily focusing on infrastructure capital improvement; equipment; and data enhancement.  Priority was given to projects that were able to be completed within 4-6 months; collaborative efforts; minority and women-led; and infrastructure moving toward institutional procurement in the future. All final decisions required wp-contentroval from the BNMC USDA grants manager.

The team worked with the USDA in April for wp-contentroval to redirect funding, and identified the priority projects with partner organizations in May. All organizations received the funding over the summer and are well on their way to enacting change.

The following four organizations each received $5,000:

St. John’s Baptist Church, God’s Farm’acy Mobile Truck

God’s Farm’acy is a mobile food truck and raised garden initiative that distributes hot meals, fruits, and vegetables for free throughout the Fruit Belt and other underserved communities. The team at St. John’s also uses the truck to offer healthy cooking classes in the community.  They used the funds to add refrigeration to the mobile food truck, allowing them to help eliminate food desserts by increasing access to fresh foods and nutrition information. Received: Funds toward refrigeration for Mobile Truck

Groundwork Market Garden: Groundwork Market Garden is a family-owned farm on the East Side of Buffalo. GMG received funds to develop and promote a digital catalog of local farm products available for purchase. This digital catalog will be updated regularly and used to secure business with larger institutions that small farms traditionally do not serve. GMG plans to include all local urban growers into the catalog as a way to procure larger contracts and promote local farms. Received: Funds for development of digital catalog, on-line marketplace and marketing support

“These funds are helping to bring our farm up to speed with the current trend for local food to be available through online marketplaces,” said Anders Gunnersen, GMG cofounder. “The online catalog will separate our products by retail and wholesale and will be used as a means to sell produce, and as a marketing tool for our farm to reach more people and institutions in the city of Buffalo and Western NY. This project is going to streamline our sales processes and tracking, and better market our products to a much larger and broader audience.”

Produce Peddlers: Produce Peddlers is an online marketplace for buying and selling produce that prevents food waste and saves money. They received funds to reconfigure its delivery van with a refrigeration unit to increase its ability to deliver fresh and local perishable goods to consumers and businesses in the WNY region. When the COVID-19 pandemic closed many businesses, farmers and other suppliers started to back up on product. In an attempt to help, Produce Peddlers opened its marketplace to individual consumers, who were also looking for alternative avenues to source their food that didn’t involve having to go out in public places. Refrigeration will allow Produce Peddlers to handle more goods safely, be GHP compliant, and streamline its delivery methods. Received: Funds for refrigeration for mobile truck

“The ability to refrigerate our delivery vehicle has propelled our business to new heights!” said Gina Wieczorek, Co-founder, VP Operations, Produce Peddlers. “We are now able to safely transport and deliver all sorts of locally grown and produced food, including animal products, meat and other processed items, to restaurants, schools and institutions all over WNY without breaking the cold chain.”

Urban Fruits & Veggies: Urban Fruits & Veggies is an urban agriculture business with two urban farms and a mobile produce market focused on providing access and nutrition education to underserved communities in the WNY area. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are growing three times as much as they usually do to support requests for food delivery, and therefore need additional growing supplies, specifically refrigeration equipment. They also need office equipment to facilitate data tracking and growing partnerships with organizations and established programs to ensure they are addressing the social determinants to health. Received: Funds for computer, laptop and printer


About the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Inc.

The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC): re-imagining our city’s future through the dynamic intersection of technology, health, discovery, and collaboration. The BNMC is a social enterprise focused on cultivating inclusive innovation in partnership with our community. We do this by improving infrastructure, managing our transportation system, creating a culture of health and wellbeing, driving innovation, and working with our partners to continue to build an innovative district that reflects the best of our community. In addition, the BNMC owns and operates more than 150,000 sq ft of incubator space, helping to grow a diverse array of emerging and mature companies through dynamic workspace, programming, and networking. www.bnmc-old.local


For more information: Marla Guarino, 716.867.9528


Farm-To-Hospital: Fresh, Local Foods Coming to a Cafeteria Near You

Farm-To-Hospital: Fresh, Local Foods Coming to a Cafeteria Near You!

The BNMC’s Farm to Hospital initiative is designed to bring more locally grown and sourced produce, proteins, and other menu items to patients, visitors, and employees across the Medical Campus, in partnership with Kaleida Health and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Benefits of New York State Grown Foods

We all have heard the buzz about local foods.  But what does it really mean?

When businesses and institutions buy local it can have remarkable effects on public health, the environment and the local economy.  The mere questioning of where food is produced allows us to become more aware of what we put into our bodies.  And when the benefits are listed, there seems to be little question of the better option.

Wow, this stuff is tasty!  Locally grown food is at optimal freshness, picked at the peak of ripeness and therefore full of flavor.  Produce retains more nutrients and is higher in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  With fewer steps between you and the source of your food, contamination is far less likely. As well, local farmers may be using less or no pesticides and herbicides, which is healthier for the body especially for those who are immunocompromised.

In Western New York we love our green spaces and blue waters.  And, our “City of Good Neighbors” nature can extend to helping the environment too.  Eating more local foods reduces C02 emissions through less food miles travelled, helping with overall climate change.  When our producers operate well-managed farms it help protect the naturally rich ecosystem by conserving our fertile soil and fresh water from Lake Erie, as well as sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.  Buying local protects our amazing natural resources for future generations to enjoy.

Money helps too!  Choosing local supports OUR farmers. More dollars stay within the local economy and provide the security producers need to continue in this rewarding yet challenging work.  We should all be proud.  New York State ranks nationally for its top agricultural products such as wp-contentles, maple syrup and pumpkins. We are third in the nation for our dairy, wine & grapes, cabbage, cauliflower and fourth for tart cherries, fresh market sweet corn, squash, pears.  Here in Western New York we are surrounded by rural farmland and in the past decade, urban farming in Buffalo has become a mainstay and hydroponic farms provide offerings throughout the year.

Grant-Funded Program Increases Access to Healthy, Local Foods in Hospitals

In 2018, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Inc. (BNMC) was one of 44 organizations nationwide and one of just four organizations in New York State to receive a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture Local Food Promotion Program to help create a culture of healthy food practices and increase local food procurement.  “BNMC Fresh: Farm to Hospital Implementation” works to prioritize local agriculture within hospitals and enables farms to access new markets such as health care institutions.

Our Partners’ Role

From the beginning of BNMC’s commitment to supporting local agriculture, the food services teams at both Roswell and Kaleida Health have been leading the charge.  Devoted to providing the healthiest options, Roswell Park’s Director of Nutrition and Food Services Chris Dibble had this to say, “The culinary team at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center strives to procure and utilize local produce whenever possible. Our Farm to Table program not only supports local farmers, but also provides benefits to our patients and visitors.  Eating fruits and vegetables closest to their harvest times is always ideal because they are most nutritious at that point.”

RPCCC has encouraged their employees to take part in Community Supported Agriculture programs, extending these benefits to home dinner tables.  Their team has travelled to learn more about what other hospitals are doing to support regional local food systems.

Similarly, since the start of this initiative at Kaleida, Metz Culinary has worked with the BNMC team to build on their promise of healthy offerings as well as providing helpful information on where they are sourcing their foods from and the benefits of farm fresh local foods.

“Metz’s commitment to procuring locally grown and sourced produce and meats aligns well with Kaleida Health’s commitment to advancing the health of our community,” said Hank Cole, director of Rehabilitation Medicine and Ambulatory Clinics at Buffalo General Medical Center. “Through Metz, we’re able to provide our patients, residents, employees and guests with healthy meal options, made with the freshest ingredients, while also supporting our local farmers. It’s a win-win situation. “

Kaleida and Metz are launching a Farm to Hospital campaign to share information on fruits and veggies they use in their menu as well as introducing the producers. Recently they featured a pop-up Farmer’s Market in the cafeteria, which is a fun way of getting these veggies out into homes.

Stay Tuned!

The BNMC team are proud to showcase the hard work of our food service teams and our local farmers and are hwp-contenty to help provide the healthiest – and tastiest! – culinary offerings out there.  Throughout the upcoming year, our Farm to Hospital team will provide employees, patients and visitors with BNMC Farm-to-Hospital Implementation information about featured local produce, as well as introducing the amazing farmers behind the products.  Keep your eyes out for the latest informational messages coming your way. And enjoy the tastes of the season!

BNMC Food Truck Rodeo Wraps Up October 2nd for the Season

BNMC’s Food Truck Rodeo Wraps Up Oct. 2nd

We Look Forward To Seeing Everyone Again Next Year!

View food truck schedule

Many thanks to all of you for helping ensure a safe and delicious Food Truck Rodeo this summer. We will be wrwp-contenting up the FTR at Washington & Carlton this season on Friday, October 2nd. We look forward to seeing everyone back again next year!



Previous post:

Having our favorite food trucks on the Campus have provided some sense of normalcy – and delicious food offerings! – this summer. We are so hwp-contenty that our daily food truck rodeo continues to draw employees in a safe & physically distant way. For those of you planning to stop by the food trucks on the Medical Campus, please note the following changes to ensure we are able to keep this Rodeo going well into the fall.

Food Truck Rodeo Details:

  • Please wear a mask and practice physical distancing.
  • Only 4 trucks are allowed daily to provide enough room.
  • Unfortunately, there will not be any outdoor seating.  Food trucks will package all food to go. Please do not linger on the lawn after getting your food.
  • Please be respectful.

Despite these precautions, we are looking forward to another wonderful 2020 season.  Thank you for supporting our local food trucks!

Case Study: Ognomy – Disrupting Sleep Medicine

Innovation-As-A-Service: Ognomy Case Study

Check out how the Ognomy sleep apnea telemedicine wp-content went from dream to wp-content MVP in 4 months through on-demand talent. Read Topcoder’s blog on the process. Watch the Ognomy video.

When Dr. Dan Rifkin had an idea to transform the sleep medicine industry using telemedicine, he knew who to call. His company, Sleep Medicine Centers of WNY was one of the first companies to locate in the Innovation Center nearly 10 years ago, and he has known Matt Enstice, BNMC CEO, for a number of years.

“I reached out to Matt to get his feedback, and he immediately jumped into action,” said Dan Rifkin, M.D., Medical Director of Sleep Medical Centers of WNY. “I wanted to transform my business, and he gave me the tools to do so.”

Matt connected Dan to Sam Marrazzo, BNMC’s Chief Innovation Officer. Sam’s niche is helping companies – any company, regardless of industry – innovate from within.

“Our goal is to connect people with ideas to a quick but thorough process using agile innovation that can create the platform for a solution that minimizes investment and risk in the marketplace,” according to Marrazzo. “We take your domain knowledge and bring connections and ideas to move your initiative along quickly. We use novel methods to solve problems and deliver solutions at a rapid pace, allowing you to prototype prior to building a final product, saving time and money. If the idea is not going to work, we want to fail fast and move along to the next idea. Through this wp-contentroach, we are changing industries by cultivating people and ideas, much like we did with Dan and sleep apnea.”

Marrazzo pulled together an innovation team from across the country, including the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State, who helped hone in the idea and its unique business proposition, along with the UB School of Business MIS Department students and professors to help with requirements and overall implementation strategy.

He also engaged BNMC partner Topcoder, an international technology platform connecting companies to top talent. Marrazzo has worked with Topcoder for more than a decade, including bringing 200+ technology superstars to Buffalo in 2017 for its international conference. With the combination of Topcoder, UB, and BNMC’s Innovation team, we were able to develop a solution within budget and timeline that met the needs of Dan’s team.

“Within three months, we went from idea to implementation,” explained Rifkin. “It would have taken me years to get this far on my own. The connections that Sam, Matt and their team made for me are going to disrupt not only my industry, but other health disciplines as well.”

The team developed a telemedicine wp-content that incorporates practice automation and allows diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea to be done via a mobile wp-content—all in the comfort of a patient’s home. Typically, patients need to spend the night in a sleep center, hooked up to monitors in an unfamiliar room and setting. Now, with advances in diagnostic technologies, Rifkin is able to ship the equipment directly to a patient’s home and monitor them in their own environment, increasing access and ease of diagnosis.

Rifkin is now looking at other disciplines that follow similar platforms, such as cardiology, to see how they might benefit from this technology.




BNMC Presents Virtual Stress Reduction Series

BNMC Presents Virtual Stress Reduction Series

Weekly Webinars in June with Innovation Center Tenant Lindsay Amico from Picture Perfect Mind LLC

The BNMC is excited to announce a free virtual Stress Reduction Series with Lindsay Amico, founder of Picture Perfect Mind LLC. In these uncertain times, many of us are feeling anxious and overwhelmed, and are looking for an outlet to help manage all the added stress we’re experiencing.
Join us for our June webinar series every Tuesday at 2pm via Zoom to discuss topics including: stress awareness and your biological make up, thought management, mindfulness, goal setting, and more. Let’s end the stigma against mental health!


Part 1: Awareness: How is Stress Showing Up For Us? ?
Tuesday, June 2nd at 2pm
In our opening webinar, we’ll discuss awareness and begin to identify where stress currently exists for us. We’ll understand the long-term effects of stress and how it is an important part of our biological makeup. Participants will learn helpful tools to drop into the present moment and reduce stress in 5 minutes or less. Each participant will be emailed a workbook for this session.
Part 2: Perception: How Do Our Thoughts Affect Our Reality? ?
Tuesday, June 9th at 2pm
In the second part of our four-part series, we’ll discuss how to bring awareness to our current thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. Participants will learn a simple thought management model as well as how to identify when their judgmental mind arises. The goal of this webinar is to learn that we are not our thoughts and we can always choose again. Each participant will be emailed a workbook for this session.
Part 3: Dropping Into the Present Moment: Tools to Tune Into Body and Mind ??‍♀️
Tuesday, June 16th at 2pm
For our third week, we’ll learn more about mindfulness and what it means for the busy professional. You’ll experience various exercises to explore mindfulness and how it can create space in your life. Tools include a body scan, meditation, visualization, and deep breathing techniques. Participants will be emailed a workbook for this session.

Part 4: Habit Creation: Stress Reduction as a Lifestyle ✅
Tuesday, June 23rd at 2pm

Congratulations! You’ve made it to week four of the series. In this webinar, we’ll discuss how to implement everything we’ve learned over the past three weeks into our day to day lives. Participants will learn how to create a personal stress reduction commitment and how to achieve realistic goals in life. We’ll share what our biggest epiphanies and challenges have been and where we see ourselves going from here. Participants will receive a workbook via email for this session.


Lindsay Amico is a Mindset Coach in Buffalo NY. Her business, Picture Perfect Mind LLC, focuses specifically on helping people to feel better on a day to day basis with mindfulness, motivational and thought management tools. With an wp-contentroach the goes beyond stress reduction, Lindsay provides people with the tools to release limiting beliefs and connect to their true purpose.

Mental Health Matters at BNMC

On Tuesday February 14th , the BNMC Healthy Workplace Initiative hosted a Mental Health First Aid training for its client companies. There were 22 people in attendance from 11 companies, including Walsh Duffield, United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Lawley, and Pegula Sports Entertainment.
This nationally recognized training was provided locally by Compeer Buffalo, a non-profit that takes a friendship wp-contentroach to Mental Health. Its model is nationally recognized and has been awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as the American Psychiatric Association.

Mental Health First Aid training aims to educate the public on how to identify, understand, and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance abuse disorders. Upon completion of the training, participants received a certificate, identifying them as Mental Health First Aiders, equipped with the skills needed to reach out, offer help, and support someone who may be experiencing a crisis. Participants also walk away with a simple 5-step action plan in hand to help a colleague, loved one, or neighbor in dealing with a crisis until professional treatment is obtained.

Mental health is the most frequently requested topic among companies in the Healthy Workplace Initiative, and it is unfortunate the depth of local data available that supports this trend. According to the Economic Impact of Poor Health on Our WNY Community, depression alone is 19% prevalent in the Buffalo-Niagara region and costs our local workforce $170 million per year in medical spending and $415.7 million productivity losses each year. These data, combined with the existing stigma surrounding mental health, demonstrate the immediate need for further action to address the well-being of our region. BNMC hosted this training to not only improve mental health literacy among the local workforce, but to also empower collective urgency in combating mental health stigma through harnessing a proactive wp-contentroach.

In addition to being highly informative and educational on a variety of mental health challenges, the training featured a series of interactive activities to further reinforce course content. One of the most impactful activities involved comparing various mental health challenges with physical health illnesses. Based on a study by the World Health Organization, the rankings demonstrated how mental health challenges can be equally or even more compromising to activities of daily life as physical health challenges, such as vision loss.

Thank you to Walsh Duffield for sponsoring the event!

For more information on Mental Health First Aid Training, please visit http://www.compeerbuffalo.org/mhfa/

Hotlines in Crisis

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK

National Crisis Text Line Text HOME to 741741

24-Hour Suicide Prevention Hotline for Erie County 716-834-3131

UB’s CTSI Community Partnership Development Seed Grant

The University at Buffalo’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) provides seed grants that support the planning of community-based participatory research projects and engagement of communities in research.
The goal of these awards is to increase the number of community-academic partnerships that are prepared to collaborate on the design and implementation of research projects, specifically those that address health disparities, aim to improve health equity, and generate preliminary data for submission of larger grants to intramural and extramural sources. Seed grants not exceeding $5,000 will be awarded to academic-community teams for:

  • Development of community-engaged research partnerships
  • Collaboration on the design of pilot research
  • Development of community-engaged research proposals for external funding

Letters of Intent are due by March 9, 2020. Selected LOIs will be invited to submit full proposals based on criteria outlined in the RFP.

CLICK HERE for more information!

BNMC “Sparks” Creativity and Innovation in Neighborhoods

We are thrilled to announce our 3rd year of BNMC Spark – the BNMC’s micro-grant program that showcases creative ideas and strategies to support partners and stakeholders within the neighborhoods surrounding the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
We invite community members and organizations to submit proposals to receive funding for initiatives that advance the goals of BNMC and the local community. The BNMC’s key goals include:

    • Build an inclusive and collaborative culture of innovation that drives economic development and creates vibrant, healthy communities.
    • Ensure our district is attractive, welcoming, and accessible – a quality place to work, live, visit and invest in.

There is $40,000 available to the community through this RFP. The maximum award amount for each project will be $5,000.

Learn more about the projects we funded in 2019 and 2018. Watch our recent video featuring some of our Spark grantees.

The deadline for wp-contentlications is February 28, 2020. Learn more at bnmc-old.local/spark or contact Kyria Stephens at kstephens@bnmc-old.local.

Highlighting BNMC Spark 2019 Projects

Highlighting BNMC Spark 2019 Projects

As we continue to build a more diverse and inclusive environment on the Medical Campus, this Thanksgiving we’re thankful for our community partners who are working together to create active, vibrant places for us all to live, work and play.
This video highlights some of our 2019 BNMC Spark grantees, and the incredible impact these projects have had in our surrounding neighborhoods.

Stay tuned for Spark 2020 micro-grants coming soon! Visit BNMC.org/Spark for more information and to view funded organizations and projects.

BNMC’s Healthy Communities Team Attends USDA Agriculture and Marketing Summit

BNMC’s Healthy Communities Team Attends USDA Agriculture and Marketing Summit

In early October, the BNMC Healthy Communities team attended the USDA Agriculture and Marketing Summit in Rosemont, IL, as one of 44 organizations in the United States that received the Local Foods Promotion Program (LFPP) Grant. This conference was a platform to connect with other grantees, learn best practices in promoting local food, and attend a tour of Local Foods grocery store.

We had the opportunity to meet with farmers working as agents of change to solve problems in their regional food systems. Some were creating technology solutions and another established a cost-sharing model equated to “Uber for farmers” to streamline distribution efforts. Flannel seemed to be a prominent clothing choice!

BNMC was one of only a few institutions in attendance, and the only organization focused on bringing local food to health care.

Farm-to-School in Boulder Valley

One of the institutions BNMC met with was Boulder Valley School District in Boulder, CO, who sources over 25% of its food from a 50-mile radius to feed its more than 31,000 students with scratch cooked meals. Our team learned about the various promotional events BVSD hosts to support the success of their local foods program and how they educate parents and the greater community about these efforts. These events included almost 40 field trips for students, staff, and parents to local farms; school food festivals with recipes from the cafeteria; hosting “Community Conversations” for farmers to connect with consumers; and 200+ education events the school hosts for parents and community each year to share the project widely. Other than promoting local foods, another major aspect of their program is focusing on only hormone and antibiotic free meats, as well as only using vendors offering RPC’s (re-useable plastic containers). Although this model was from a school-setting, many of the practices at the school level can be translated into hospital and healthcare.

A Truly Local Grocery Store

Also included in the conference was a tour of Local Foods, a Chicago-based grocery store focused on sourcing products that are locally sourced, locally processed, and from ethical producers and suppliers for non-local items. The tour included a lunch featuring the best quality seasonal foods from mid-west farmers and a behind-the-scenes look at their impressive operations, storage, and tracking mechanisms. Local Foods has a whole animal butchery, which purchases and uses the whole animal to sell in their retail location since these items cannot go through the distribution channel. This is beneficial for ranchers as by purchasing the entire animal ranchers aren’t stuck with trying to sell the remaining parts of the animal. For the consumer, it means higher quality, better tasting meat, and a known source to where one’s meal came from. No more mystery meat!

Fresh Ideas for FreshTakes

On the last day of the conference, we attended a panel discussion on promoting and marketing local foods by three companies in the greater “Chicagoland” region, featuring Local Foods, Mighty Vine Tomatoes, and Farmer’s Fridge. This was a special moment for the BNMC team as the Farmers Fridge model was the inspiration for bringing the FreshTakes Smart Fridge to the Medical Campus. We fan-crushed a little bit, and bought their salads and snacks from the fridge in the Chicago O’Hare airport. It did not diswp-contentoint! From the panel, the team learned better ways to promote the FreshTakes smart fridges on Campus as well as how to break the traditional stereotype for vending machines being unhealthy. Additionally, based off of the Mighty Vine Tomatoes and Local Foods model, we will share successful industry practices with our community partners all in the WNY regional food system.


100 Days of Summer Wellness

100 Days of Summer Wellness

September is the time of year we simultaneously love and dread. Summer fun and vacations are over, and we’re brought back to routine work and school schedules. On Campus, we see more medical students – working, eating, and commuting beside us, as the new semester starts. Our hospitals continue to deliver world-renowned health care around-the-clock, while seasonal vegetables pop up on cafeteria menus along with festive pumpkin decorations on the inpatient floors. This time of year carries a spirit of being given a fresh start and inspiring us to get back to the grind – similar to the New Year. Except instead of winter weather advisories and health resolutions there are pumpkin spice lattes and back to school sales!

With that, let’s reflect on how healthy we’ve been together for the past 100 days of wellness this summer:

  • Weekly Tuesday yoga class engaged 151 people in 780 minutes of physical activity, which is the equivalent of 13 hours of pure yogi bliss. Thank you Yogis in Service.
  • 3000+ healthy meals were sold from the Innovation Center’s Fresh Takes Smart Fridge.
  • Group bike rides on Friday afternoons shredded 3,570 calories for 71 miles. That’s like biking to Niagara on the Lake and back. Thank you Reddy Bikeshare.
  • 1000+ CSA shares were distributed campus wide, providing employees and their families with fresh local produce, conveniently delivered to them right at work.
  • On Walk on Wednesdays, we walked 319,600 steps and burned 12,772 calories over 160 miles, which basically means we walked from Buffalo to Toronto and back. #runforestrun
  • The opening of Healthy Scratch at Buffalo General Medical Center in June 2019.
  • There were 1,000+ bike rentals from Medical Campus Reddy Bikeshare stations and 1,400 rides through the BNMC zone.
  • All 25 food trucks in the BNMC Food Truck Rodeo offered certified healthy options.

With all these healthy wins, let’s capture that New Years spirit of determination and get right to it now, in September! My charge to you is to make it your healthiest month of 2019 – we have the best local produce of the season, the weather is just right for walking and biking outside, and football is starting so you’ll need the healthy activities to balance tailgating festivities. Check out our Fall Wellness schedule!

Four New Summer Eats on or Near Campus!

Four New Summer Eats on or Near Campus!

August is here, and while there’s still plenty of summer left, we don’t have to tell you that now is the perfect time to get out and explore while the weather is beautiful. Here are some new spots we think you should check out for lunch or when you just need a mid-day pick me up.

The Healthy Scratch – This Harbor Center staple now has two locations on the BNMC! As you probably know. The Healthy Scratch is at Roswell Park and has most recently opened shop at Buffalo General Medical Center, featuring a wide variety of nutritious food and drink options. From nitro-brewed coffee to cold-pressed juices to smoothie bowls and sandwiches, the Healthy Scratch is the perfect spot to grab a snack or have a healthy lunch. Check out their website for a complete menu & hours of operation.

Buffalo Tikka House – Located at 23 Allen Street, the Buffalo Tikka House serves an authentic Bangladeshi and Indian Halal Cuisine. The new restaurant has received several reviews praising the flavor of their rich food and variety of dishes. They have an extensive menu, including vegetarian options and several variations of fresh naan. Buffalo Tikka House is open seven days a week for both lunch and dinner, and is available on GrubHub. Learn more about Buffalo Tikka House here!

Farmers’ Markets – Pick up farm fresh fruit, veggies and other delicious goodies at one of our local farmers’ markets –

  • Downtown Country Market – Tuesdays & Thursdays from 10am-2:30pm at Main & Court St.
  • MAP Mobile Market – Thursdays from 10am-12pm at the Moot Senior Center, 292 High St. & Tuesday 11am – 1pm at the Salvation Army, 960 Main St.
  • Roswell Park’s Market in the Park – Wednesdays from 11am-1:30pm at Kaminski Park & Gardens (Elm & Carlton Streets)

BNMC Food Truck Rodeo – We’re proud to host Buffalo’s largest daily Food Truck Rodeo at Washington & Carlton St! Every weekday from 11am-1:30pm, our Food Truck Rodeo features 2-5 trucks, each with a different specialty and cuisine. You’re sure to find your favorite trucks, including Lloyd’s, Amy’s Truck, Thai Me Up, and so many more! This location has plenty of outdoor seating, plus music and lawn games to create the perfect lunch break.

BNMC Hosts Buffalo’s Largest Daily Food Truck Rodeo

BNMC Hosts Buffalo’s Largest Daily Food Truck Rodeo

Looking for something new to try at lunch? Stop by the BNMC Food Truck Rodeo on the lawn at Washington & Carlton St. weekdays from 11:30am-1:30pm. We have a variety of trucks serving up so many delicious options, and healthy ones, too! All all your favorites are scheduled to join us, including Fat Bob’s, Amy’s Truck, Thai Me Up, Lloyd’s, and so many more. Located in the heart of the BNMC, the Food Truck Rodeo is here to serve anyone from scrubs to suits and all those in between!

  • We have different trucks scheduled for each weekday to ensure everyone’s tastebuds are hwp-contenty. Check out our schedule to see which trucks are coming when.
  • We have plenty of outdoor seating, plus music and lawn games to make the perfect lunch break!
  • Check out this video to see what the BNMC Food Truck Rodeo is all about.

Grand Opening of New Indoor Bike Parking

Grand Opening of New Indoor Bike Parking

The team at BNMC, along with community partners, recently celebrated the grand opening of the new secure indoor bike parking at 854 Ellicott in conjunction with our annual Bike to Work Day breakfast celebration.

“We are proud to have built an active commuter-friendly culture on the Medical Campus,” said Matt Enstice, President & CEO, BNMC Inc. “We worked closely with our transportation partners to create the region’s first mobility hub here on the Medical Campus and we continue to improve our infrastructure and commuting options to ensure efficient, safe, and healthy ways for employees, patients, and visitors to access the Medical Campus.”

We have more than doubled the indoor bike parking available to employees who work on the Medical Campus, patients, and their families with the opening of new secure bike parking with lockers in the parking garage at 854 Ellicott, adjacent to Oishei Children’s Hospital, Buffalo General Medical Center, and the Gates Vascular Institute.

There is space for 30 bikes in the new secure parking facility, an additional 36 spots for covered bike parking in the garage, and parking for 16 bikes right outside. In addition to 24 lockers for the cyclists to use, there is a bike vending machine stocked with bike-related amenities for commuters, including tubes, patch kits, and lights.

This adds to existing amenities, including the secure indoor bike parking with space for 15 bikes in a renovated shipping container and a bike fix-it station at the corner of Ellicott & Virginia Street that the BNMC Inc. installed in 2013. In addition, there are two Reddy Bikeshare stations with a total of 12 racks with bikes available for short term use, and free parking zone anywhere on the Medical Campus to allow users to park closer to their destination on any public rack or infrastructure without a fee.

The Medical Campus already has the densest bicycle parking in the City of Buffalo with 333 spaces (an increase of 100 spaces over last year) plus the secure bike parking. GObike Buffalo will manage the Campus-wide indoor parking as part of its longtime partnership with the BNMC.

The BNMC Inc. is the region’s leader in enhancing and marketing alternative commuting options to employees in its geography and has created the region’s first mobility hub on the Medical Campus. In addition to improving amenities for cyclists, the BNMC Inc. also works closely with the NFTA to increase service options, including extending bus lines to come into the Medical Campus. The organization also helped to design and implement the NFTA’s Corporate Pass Program, to incentivize more employees to take Metro Bus and Rail to work.

“As part of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, we’re thrilled at this initiative that promotes a safe and easy way for our employees to bike to work,” said Allegra Jaros, President at Oishei Children’s Hospital. “Increased secure bike parking for Kaleida Health employees and our patient families will hopefully create more bike commuters on the medical campus throughout the community.”

“Commuting by bicycle is an efficient, healthy, and community-minded way to get to work. Safe and secure bike parking at the workplace encourages more people to bicycle to work, so we’re pleased to operate BNMC’s bike parking facility as part of our citywide initiative, GO Buffalo Niagara, to help downtown commuters use means other than driving alone to get to work.” Justin Booth, executive director of GObike Buffalo.

“Reddy Bikeshare is proud to celebrate Bike to Work Day once again with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus”, said Jennifer White, marketing and communications executive for Reddy Bikeshare. “Campus employees have really embraced the use of Reddy bikes to get to and from work, to go to lunch, and to incorporate some activity into their day. It’s great to work with like-minded partners who encourage people to choose healthier, greener options.”

Grand Opening of New Indoor Bike Parking and Bike to Work Celebration this Friday on Medical Campus

BNMC Inc. and partners highlight improvements that support biking and commuting options across the Medical Campus, promoting health, environmental responsibility, and pedestrian-friendly streets.

BUFFALO, NY – The BNMC Inc. will officially open its new secure indoor bike parking at a breakfast gathering on Friday, May 17th at the culmination of National Bike to Work Week as they celebrate those who commute to work by bike and help to build a bike-friendly culture on the Medical Campus.

The BNMC Inc. has more than doubled the indoor bike parking available to employees who work on the Medical Campus with the opening of the new bike parking with lockers in the parking garage at 854 Ellicott, adjacent to Oishei Children’s Hospital, Buffalo General Medical Center, and the Gates Vascular Institute. In addition to lockers for the cyclists use, there is a bike vending machine stocked with bike-related amenities, such as tubes, patch kits, and lights, to aid commuters.

This adds to the secure bike parking in the renovated shipping container and bike fix-it station at the corner of Ellicott & Virginia Street that the BNMC Inc. installed in 2013. GObike Buffalo will manage the indoor parking as part of its longtime partnership with the BNMC.

The Medical Campus already has the densest bicycle parking in the City of Buffalo with 333 spaces (an increase of 100 spaces over last year) and secure bike parking, two Reddy Bikeshare stations with a total of 12 racks with bikes available for short term use, and free parking zone anywhere on the Medical Campus to allow users to park closer to their destination on any public rack or infrastructure without a fee.

WHEN:                                 Friday, May 17th  7:00 AM – 10 AM

Brief remarks begin at 9:00 AM from:

  • Mayor Byron Brown (invited)
  • Matt Enstice, President & CEO, BNMC
  • Allegra Jaros, President, John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital
  • Justin Booth, Executive Director, GObike Buffalo
  • Jennifer White, Communications Director, Reddy Bikeshare

LOCATION:         854 Ellicott Street (corner of Ellicott & Goodrich) on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus

WHO:                   BNMC Inc. is hosting the event in partnership with GObike Buffalo and Reddy Bikeshare to celebrate bike commuters and those using active commuting options to get to work.

                                There will be a bike train beginning at City Hall for anyone looking to ride as a group to the event on the Medical Campus.

Collaborating partners in transportation planning will be on hand to share information about transportation options, programs and amenities on the Medical Campus that encourage employees to try biking, walking, transit, and carpooling.  Partners include GObike Buffalo, GO Buffalo Niagara, Reddy Bikeshare, NFTA, and others.

Free breakfast and coffee provided by Ashker’s and lloyd taco truck.  


New England Farm to Institution Summit 2019: 5 Takeaways

BNMC’s Healthy Communities team attended the New England Farm to Institution Summit in Amherst, Mass. earlier this month to share how we’re creating a culture of health on the Medical Campus, and learn about other farm-to-institution programs across the country. We are excited to wp-contently some of these concepts to our own Farm-to-Hospital program here in Buffalo!
Congrats to R. Russ from Kaleida Health for winning the first $50 gift card to Homegrown Kitchen! There’s still time to complete the survey – share your thoughts with us today.

Here are some take-aways from Beth Machnica, our Healthy Communities Catalyst:

New England Farm to Institution Summit 2019: 5 Takeaways

There were many great lessons to be learned from attendees, presenters, exhibitors and others who participated in the 2019 New England Farm to Institution Summit. The Summit was held at University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA, where they are making strides in offering local, sustainable food. While we are highlighting our 5 takeaways below, there was one theme that came up often throughout the Summit – equity. We often forget about the people throughout the entire food system who make everything possible – from the people growing our food and caring for the land – to those processing our food, fishing our seas, moving the food to our stores and institutions, and serving the food in hospitals, schools, prisons and restaurants. We heard from Jose Oliva, the co-Director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance. According to Jose, there are over 20 million food chain employees, making it the largest employer, and unfortunately, they are some of the lowest paying jobs and in hazardous working conditions. While we consider all the other takeaways, working towards an equitable food system is something that we all need to challenge ourselves to work towards.  

1. Invite farmers to campus cafeterias.

A best practice for any farm to institution project includes bringing the farmers, growers, and fishermen right to where the food is served. It links consumers eating the food with the individuals who handpicked it, connecting people with the food system and the person that grew the food on their plate. This can also be done on a regular basis through marketing materials highlighting specific farms, and telling stories of specific farmers and families. Coordinating field trips is great to build the link with staff and students, but bringing the farmer to campus allows many more to make the connection.

2. Hospitals have a lot to learn from prisons and jails.

Among the schools, hospitals, and universities attending this Farm to Institution conference were also prisons and jails. For correctional facilities involved in the farm to institution movement the benefits are greater than just supporting local farmers, the ag economy, and providing healthier foods: it’s about transformative healing. State prisons engage inmates in gardening, nutrition classes, food preparation, eating healthy on a low budget, and composting. These initiatives have a far greater purpose than simply promoting health or teaching in-demand job skills. They build self-efficacy, empowerment, and promote mental and emotional wellbeing among inmates. These initiatives can easily be translated into a clinical setting to promote healing and well-being among patients and caretakers.

3. Healthcare needs to take on an advocacy role in food policy.

Our Healthy Communities team learned how policy influences much more than just food safety in institutional settings. The Food Safety Modernization Act, a federal law, incentivizes local sourcing within 400 miles and promotes food chain transparency, both of which are goals for the Farm to Hospital Initiative that BNMC is leading locally. This law supports BNMC institutions in increasing their procurement of local food. It also demonstrates the critical position hospitals hold in influencing systems change through food policy to align with health and well-being programs.

4. Define “Local”.

Having a definition of what local means is essential to a successful farm to institution program. Does local mean within state boundaries? Within 250 miles? Within the 8 counties of Western New York? Having a set standard creates boundaries that will determine the rest of the project scope – what farmers are available to work with in the radius, what current distribution networks exit within the boundary, and if there is enough local volume of a variety of products to meet the demand. Looking beyond geography is important as well. Including local impact in your definition and assessment includes the WHY. Why are we focused on local? We want to impact our local economy, including local agriculture, and business.

5. We Learned about Hyper-Local Seafood.

Being located in New England, naturally the food served at the conference included seafood. What made it interesting was having lunch with the fisherman who caught the seafood we were eating and also learning about the local fishery economy in New England specifically. The type of fish the fishermen specialize in is dogfish, which is overabundant in New England yet Americans traditionally don’t eat because of its off-putting name. As a result, the majority of dogfish gets exported to Europe, and this utilizes more resources, is less environmentally sustainable, and the fishermen don’t know who the end-consumer is. When institutions in New England purchase the dogfish in the form of a breaded fish fillet to serve in hospitals, universities, and prisons, fishermen earn a fairer portion of the dollar for their work, it is more efficient, and the fishermen know who is eating their food.